Don’t forget to be sensible in the making of sensational.

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The saying is picture speaks thousand words. It means a picture is enough to express or tell something. But sometimes it’s not. That’s why I write. I mostly write when a picture is not enough to express what I feel. At such times I need help of words. I am passionate about photography. I take photography more than job. I feel it is something that comes with huge responsibility. Because of this love I sometimes become furious when I see people taking it with no seriousness at all. I have become furious one more time recently. The assignment was to take photos of Tilak Bahadur Thapa at Tribhuwan International Airport. He was imprisoned in Afghanistan and released after two years. These kinds of assignments still make me nervous although I’ve covered many. This is because of the intense emotions involved in it. As a photographer, when we get assignments, we often get half information. In this case, information I got was, he was coming by Fly Dubai and will be landing at 6:10 pm. The question was how do I recognize him? The commonsense was there will be other media as well so I will shoot what they shoot. Something I hate to do. After reaching airport with my reporter, the question still was, how do we recognize him? We were sure that his family would be there to receive him. But still how do we know who they are? After a lot of failed phone calls and random questions to people at the waiting lounge, we found his family. My reporter started asking questions and I started taking pictures from distant before moving in close. Tilak’s wife Juna had come with her two sons. They were talking to my reporter, but their eyes were constantly gazing for the glimpse of her husband at the arrival door that they could see through the glass of waiting lounge. The flight landed 23 minutes later than was scheduled. As the screen displayed ‘landed’ to the flight their impatience grew more every second. I was all observing this and taking few pictures. For them it seemed like time had stopped or at least was passing slowly.

I was becoming more nervous looking at them. How will they react? Will they cry? Will they laugh? Will they all hug at the same time? Where was the light coming from? Where should I stay? How do I avoid photographers with super wide lenses they almost stick to the face of people they are photographing? All these questions were running through my head. Suddenly Juna covered her face with the green shawl of her kurta and started pouring her emotions. That was the moment she saw her husband almost 30 meters away at the arrival. Her elder son consoled her, and I was taking more shots.

We (few more journo friends) decided to follow them until the exit door of arrival. That’s where you are allowed to go with a camera and press card. Beyond that you need special pass. I was getting more nervous about getting the shot. What if they hugged and cried and I missed the shot? What if… this and that…  Then the time came when I became furious all of a sudden. What I saw was a reporter had already taken Tilak in a corner and started asking questions. May be he thought he was the only one there or may be he would get one more star on his ranking at the office for this. The security didn’t want all of the journalistic drama at that place. We must understand their duty and the security reasons. After all it is the only international airport we have. They took all of us just outside the building near parking lot.

By this time the family could only stare at each other. Tilak was already surrounded by journalists bombarding him with questions. More onlookers had surrounded by this time as if they were seeing something for the first time. Some 10 minutes had gone and his family was on the corner waiting. I saw his older son had starting crying on his mother’s shoulder. It seemed like their father was imprisoned one more time.

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This wait for them was even longer. They were right there, but couldn’t meet. They were separated by a barrier called journalists. I felt the way journalists acted was heartless. The situation was, a person was imprisoned in Afghanistan and released after two months. In such situation the hardest pain one gets is to miss the family. And, finally he was very happy to see his wife and two sons. And, the wife was seeing her husband and sons were seeing their father after two years. That was something they didn’t hope one month ago. That was the moment they all were waiting for. And, it was ruined for the sake of reporting. I think it was his right to meet his family first. Then, the interview and everything would have been done later. He might have been thinking on his way back how his wife looked like, how his sons looked like. What he would say, how he would feel while hugging them. But it was all ruined.

After the journalists were done, they all left. And, finally Tilak was with his family. I waited until they left. They found a taxi and sat inside it. I saw just before the taxi left, his wife and elder son crying on his shoulder and leaning on the front seat of the taxi and finally the family reunited.

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As a photographer, I often feel that photographing people is intruding their personal life. But sometimes reporting and recording is important to give information and for the news. For this sometimes we cross the line. But it is very important to give respect to other people. Being journalist doesn’t mean you can cross all the lines. There is a thin line between being sensible and making sensational. (It was also published on Nagarik Daily in Nepali: )

Don’t forget to be sensible in the making of sensational.

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